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The Best Way to Paint Wrought Iron

Classic, timeless and elegant, the decorative and durable aspects of wrought iron have been acknowledged around the world for hundreds of years. But whether you have wrought iron fencing, balustrades or furniture, they still need some maintenance and protection from the elements, most notably from rust. 

Here we look at how to slow down the ageing process and the best way to paint wrought iron products if they are looking a little worse for wear!

The warning signs of deterioration

Although wrought iron offers superior durability compared to other materials, it will still wear over time, particularly if exposed to some of the extreme weather conditions we sometimes face here in Australia. Warnings signs to look out for include: 

  • Paintwork that is blistering
  • An uneven surface on the wrought iron, known as “pitting”
  • Rust-coloured stains on surrounding brickwork or masonry
  • Undetected deterioration due to surrounding plant growth like vines and creepers

Wrought iron maintenance tips

Because wrought iron is such a tough material, it is relatively easy to care for. But the slightly coarse texture also means it can hold extra dust and dirt and, being a metal, is prone to rust. Regular cleaning and maintenance of your wrought iron can help prolong its life and keep it looking beautiful for years to come. 

Some maintenance tips include:

  • Corrosion and rust can generally be minimised on paintwork by cleaning wrought iron thoroughly with a mild household cleanser like dish soap, rinsing with water and then allowing it to dry. Residue should then be wiped off with a clean cloth.
  • If you do notice any light rust forming, remove it by rubbing the area with a fine wire brush, sandpaper or a piece of steel wool. A power drill and brass wire wheel can also be effective. Once all the rust is dislodged, brush away the excess flakes and then clean items as above to remove any tiny remnants of rust that might be remaining.
  • If you have wrought iron gates, it’s also worth greasing their hinges every year or if they become squeaky. A general spray-on lubricant (like WD-40) works well for this purpose.

How do you paint wrought iron?

 If you’ve decided rust removal is not enough to elevate your wrought iron to its former glory, then painting is the next option. It’s not a complicated process, but it does need some supplies and a bit of prep work to ensure your safety and that the job is done right, first time!

Supplies you’ll need

  • Drop sheet/s
  • Gloves
  • Dust mask
  • Safety goggles
  • Wire brush, scraper and sandpaper or cordless drill with a wire brush attachment
  • Earmuffs (if using a drill)
  • Clean cloths
  • Thinner
  • Primer
  • Paintbrush and paint or spray paint
  • Turpentine (if hand-painting)

The process

Step 1 – Remove the old paint

Once dirt, dust, stains and cobwebs are removed and your wrought iron is clean and dry, place a drop sheet around the item. Then, put on your PPE gear — your gloves, dust mask and safety goggles. You can use two processes to strip the paint off. The first is to use a little elbow grease and remove it by hand. Use a scraper and a wire brush to get into all the nooks and crannies of the item, including around intricate lacework. Then use sandpaper where you can to remove all the loose paint and dust off thoroughly.

 The second option is to use a cordless drill with a wire brush attachment. This will be easier and quicker, but it’s recommended you use earmuffs! It’s also worth using a thinner to remove all traces of oil or grease — particularly on wrought iron outdoor tables. However, take care as thinners are strong-smelling and volatile, so keep your PPE gear on and don’t touch the metal until it has dried. When preparing old wrought iron items, be aware that decade-old paints may contain lead, so wash your hands thoroughly when finished, and properly discard any chipped or peeling paint.

Step 2 – Prepare with a primer 

Once you’ve removed all the flaky paint, wash the item thoroughly and dry as above. A primer is recommended before painting as it can prolong the life of your paintwork. However, it should be an oil-based primer that’s suitable for wrought iron. A couple of products we recommend are:

  • Dulux Metalshield All Surface Primer. This is a thin-film zinc phosphate primer that’s suitable for all metal surfaces. It is fast-drying and has great corrosion protection and excellent adhesion.
  • Dulux Metalshield Cold Galv Primer. This corrosive primer contains a high level of zinc metal that provides cathodic protection (which controls the corrosion of a metal surface). It has a superior anti-corrosive coating and is a highly effective barrier against moisture.

Step 3 – Get painting!

Refinishing the wrought iron surface is the next step, and you should do this with an oil-based paint that is specifically designed for outdoor metal items (more on this below). This will ensure your wrought iron has the ultimate protection from the elements.

If you are using a paintbrush, stir the paint well and pour it into another container. This will stop the paint drying on the lip of the tin, which may stop the lid from fitting properly. Paint once, and then allow the item to dry thoroughly.

If spray painting, ensure there is adequate ventilation and you are using a good-sized drop cloth. It’s also worth avoiding windy days as this can make the job even trickier! When spraying, use light even coats to cover the iron but don’t be too heavy-handed as it will start to run. Keep the spray can moving and slowly build up the layers until the item is evenly covered. It is better to build up several thin coats rather than one thick one. At the end of each coat, clear the spray can nozzle.

Step 4 – Apply a second coat

Ensure your item is looking its best before applying a second coat. Read the instructions on the paint tin in terms of how long to leave the first coat to dry. If painting by hand, clean your brush using turpentine, so it’s ready for your next paint job!

The best paints to use

There are several paints suitable for wrought iron on the market, however one company we highly recommend is Dulux. They have been a part of the Australian paint and coatings manufacturing industry since 1933. Their products are also purpose-built to suit the unique needs of different materials — including wrought iron.

The three below protect against rust and corrosion, are ideal for wrought iron gates, fences and outdoor furniture, and primer is not required for wrought iron or pre-painted metal surfaces. 

  • Dulux Metalshield Epoxy Enamel Gloss. It is available in a wide range of colours from white, cream and yellow to red, blue, green, brown, grey and black in  “deep”, “bright”, “extra bright” and “bold” hues.
  • Dulux Metalshield Epoxy Enamel Satin. It is available in Satin White (spray only) and Satin Black bases.
  • Dulux Metalshield Epoxy Enamel Flat. It is available in Flat Black and Flat White bases.

References

Dean-Wilson Iron